tv First Ladies Influence Image CSPAN March 9, 2013 7:00pm-8:30pm EST
there are not that many pieces to the problem. each he's is hard to solve. the standards of security in the government level and in the private sector level are absolutely cripple. >> have you heard that after the executive order maybe we should leave it like that? >> nonsense. it leaves out all of the standards and training. americans need to be aware that this is a terrible problem that we are trying to get people on board. asat he did was good, but wha insufficient. >> the version you would like to see would have included what? >> what our bill had -- standards. getting together with the private sector and the public sector and with homeland
security to a certain extent. discussing, this is what we should be doing. energy sectors, water sectors, transportation sectors, aviation -- this is what swe should be doing. that is a good start. it is not enough. there will be a lot of debate and conflict. there should be. >> we will continue this conversation as the months go on. senator jay rockefeller, chairman of the commerce, science, and transportation committee. thank you for being on the "the communicators." [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013] [captioning performed by national captioning institute]
abigail would grow to be the equal. she has revealed herself as an18th century women but her concerns sound very modern to us today. >> john and abigail adams had become so prominent in the minds of americans because of the collection papers and the publications that have opened them up to the world. >> the story of abigail adams in the revolutionary wares the story of sacrifice, of
commitment to country and abigail rose to the occasion. >> abigail was adamantly opposed to slavery. >> she was quite a behind the scenes dynamo, think. you cannot rule without including what women want and what women have to contribute. >> the backdrop of the adam's brief occupancy of the white house is what political defeat and personal tragedy. >> she is worried about her husband and defendeds him against slander. she is concerned about her children and their upbringing and their education. >> she could hold her own with anybody in her own time and she was her husband's equal. >> abigail smith married john adams at age 19. over 54 years of marriage, they have five children together including a future president. ahead of the time in many ways, and a writer perhaps unparalleled to any first
lady. abigail pens this to her husband during the american revolution. all history at every age exhibits instances of patriotic virtue in the female sex which considering our situation equals the most heroic of yours. good evening, welcome to c-span's first lady's influence and image. for the next 90 minutes, will be with be learning more about abigail adam, the second first lady of the united states. we have two guests at our table who spent most of the professional careers learning about the adams and bringing their writings to the public. let me introduce them to you. the author of numerous books including a writing life and abby gill and john portrait of a marriage. and james taylor, jim taylors the editor and chief of the adams paper at the massachusetts historical society. thanks to both of you and welcome. well, abigail adams just by
vir thief fact of being the wife of the second president and a mother of another president who earned her place in history. you say, in your book, she is an historical figure in her own right. how so? >> primarily because she left us letters and we have a record of her life. her letters are not ordinary. they are extraordinary. they are wonderfully written and there are many, many of them. so abigail was a letter writer at a time when women couldn't public all publication so her letters became her outlet and they are the best record we have of women's role in the american ref lugs and for the period of the early national government for the united states. >> last week in the program we learned with great sar row that martha washington burned the papers of her correspondence with her husband, george. only two of them remained. we got the opposite here.
thousands and thousands of them. explain the scope of the trove of materials that you have to work with as scholars through the writings of the adams' family. >> the adams' family gave two of the massachusetts historical society a collection. we never accounted them individually, but probably 70,000-plus documents over several generations and probably about 300,000 pages. for abigail and john, which is, i think, the most important of the collection, there are about 1170 letters they exchange. >> how frequently did they write? >> it depended. we don't have any letters after 1801 because after john leaves the white house, they are together almost all the time, but for a period, for example, when there is fairly regular mail delivery between massachusetts and
philadelphia, or later washington, d.c., they wrote at least once a week, and sometimes twice week. i almost think they were like phone calls. >> this letter is an interactive one. we hope you will take part. in 15 minutes, well take your telephone calls and put the phone number on the screen so you can phone in a question. there are two other ways you can be involved as well. if you go to twitter and use the hashtag first lady we'll include the tweet, the questions by twitter and you can go to c-span's facebook page and we have posted a spot where you can send questions in tonight. will actually start with a facebook comment. sophia who writes, she looks like a tough cookie. well, looking at the words of abigail adams, she of was she a tough cookie? >> oh my goodness, no. yes and no. in fact, one of the things that is important to understand about abigail, she started out as naive young woman who expected, her
expectations where to have a normal life bike like her mother did. the revolution disrupted that and her whole life shifted, and this is one of the reasons she has become so very great a model for us as women is that she used the opportunity of this disruption in her life to grow as person. >> so she begins as naive young woman, and she does become a very sophisticated worldly, opinionated kind of woman. >> think think this is one of the things that makes her most attractive. a good character in a novel develops overtime. she is like a good character in a novel. she develops. >> well, what were her roots? where was she born? what was the upbringing such she became a woman of writers? >> she was the daughter of a minister, reverend william smith. her mother was descended from,
there was mobility in new england, the clergy and the political world of new england of massachusetts baycol lonni so her mother's family were nortons and quincys and so she grew up in a household that was quite middle class for that time and had two sisters and one brother. she was, by all reports, sickly as a child, and therefore did not go to any kind of public schooling of which there were a few. but was educated at home by her mother and she read at random in her father's library. >> when in the course of reading her wright did she become political? can you describe her politics? >> i am trying to think. very, very early on when john
is active at the continental congress. she craves news. she wants the newspapers from philadelphia. she wants papers when they are published. we know she is consuming the news at that time. because all the news was what was printed. she begins, i would say, by the mild 1770's she is onboard. >> and in what capacity? what is her political thinking? >> she was an ard ent revolutionary. she was very supportive, not only of the revolution, but the fact that john was participating, as a matter of fact, they were partners in everything that he did. as matter of fact, at some point, she writes to her as thanks her for being a partner in the activity. later on, i think she is, i
would say, perhaps more conservative than john in some ways when it came to national politics. >> we will be look at some of her letters throughout the program, but a very famous one is used in the open. remember the ladies. that is a letter that spoke particular interest to you. you write that the scope of it. we always hear that section. really much broader. why is that letter significant in understanding abigail adams. >> her letter does many things. my sense of abigail is that she wrote at night and she would enter a kind of referee, in which she followed the thought pattern wherever it went. so she changes topics in her letters very many times, and so it starts out with a political statement about why these southerners can favor
slavery and still be, doing a rebellion against a tyranny. >> and she questions that? >> and she questions that. and then she moves on and, in the middle of a paragraph, remember the ladies statement. you guess on still further to the just that if john didn't like this idea, actually, it was remarkable thing, because he was actually in a position to do something, to make a change, because he was on the committee that was drafting the decoration of independence, so he actually could have made it move for women's rights at that time, and it is remarkable she did suggest that. >> give us a sense of what powers women had in society at that time. >> i mean, they could not publish under their own names. they could not vote. how could women be influential? >> i think it is much more subtle thing.
in the same way that, if a decision -- many times a decision ismated even today, and people think that the husband makes the decision, well, there is a kitchen table discussion that guess on before that, and i think that probably, in the adams' household, there were a lot of kitchen table discussion between john and abigail, and abigail may not have been most obvious in making the decision, but i think she influenced jn a lot. we know much let later after the revolution when he has this political career, that she is influential in helping him formulate some of the ideas. i want to tell you a little bit about what the country looked like in 1800 as john adams was leaving office. we have some sta ticks that we'll put on the screen to give some of the scope. foreexample, by that point, and the census in 1800, interestingly was done by john marshall, who went ton the
supreme court, ultimately done by secretary of state james madison, all such familiar names from history in the census chief at that time. the population was 5.3 million across 16 states. there were 998,000 blacks. about 19% of the population. only 12% of them free. and that 5.3 million was 35% growth in the country just in ten years since the 1790 census. one interesting thing though, the average life expectancy was just 39 years. the largest cities in the country were new york, philadelphia and baltimore, unchanged from ten years ago. what are the things we should take away from those statistics, that snap shot of america? >> well, i think one of the things is there is an expansion going on. this is one of the things that is very difficult for the adams is because politics are changing and the changing politics means that they are new englanders, they are
federalist. as time guess by, as the population moves south and westward, it makes it more difficult for the politics that they believe in. >> and again, we're going to invite your telephone calls. we'll go to calls and few minutes. i am told you want to read as you passage from one of the letters. >> i would like to remark on the 39-year life span. >> yes. >> that is not exactly accurate to the extent that if children died, much more rapidly, so that if a child survived at 12, probably the life span with a much longer. and many, many people lived into their 7os as the adams did. >> but the adams' five children, now how many survived to adulthood? >> for you. >> four. >> right. >> you are getting a passage ready for us. you wanted to read us from the letter we tacked about earlier and remember the ladies. >> right. >> well, in this particular letter, abigail was writing
about conditions in her life and what was going on in her world, and she said "you have declared the independence, she knew john was on this committee, and by the way, in the code of laws which i suppose it will be necessary for you to make, i desire you would remember the ladies, and be more generous and faithful to them than your ancestors, which is an old remarkable statement for a woman to have made in that era. "." >> based on the relationship that we see detailed in the led of letters, would vit been a surprising thing for her to say? >> no, i don't think so at all. as we go back to the kit chen table, i am sure that before he rode off to philadelphia, she filled his ear with a lot of ideas along the way. but john and his response notes that there are several groups of people servant, slaves, et cetera, are also
moved during this time to think about their rights and their independence. >> what was her viewpoint on slavery? >> she was opposed to slavery. she had a servant, a black servant who, in fact, had ban slave of her father, and i think she woman had, a was the story. >> phoebe, did she have the right to be free after or continue as servant? i cannot remember. >> abigail cared for her for the rest of her life. >> right. >> after her parents died. >> right. right. >> abigail cared for her. in fact, she lived in the adam's house. >> right. >> but the business was farm. and so how did they manage to work the farm? what kind of labor did they use to support family labor?
>> farming. >> they did have hired labor. it became very problematic for abigail during the war. the whole situation of having will be are on the land. i want to go back to the letter a little bit. because you mentioned jn's response to her. but what she does in this letter, in addition to saying,eas that southerners can support a revolution, when they themselves keep people in slavery, then she guess and says "remember the ladies." then she says, if you are fot going to pay attention to this, we ladies will have our own rebellion. then it guess on if you are her to say, you should treat us the same way that god treats people. and she invokes the entire hierarchy. in this one letter, she brings out so many ideas, i would suggest that her threat to the
revolution was one of the ways that the adams is related to anticipate other, which is they teased each other. his response to hers with a tease also. well, it sounds to me as if every prop, any tribe, is going to make a revolution. and jokes are a way that people have of de-escalating an argument, and it brings it down to normal, so one of the ways in which they relayed it it seems to me. >> these prolific letter writers, how did they meet each other? >> they met at her father's house, we went as a dinner guest with a friend, a lifelong friend who richard cranch who then married the elder sister of be abigail. abigail was only -- not yet 15 at that time that was not particularly, at least in his diary, was not particularly enthusiastic about her at
first. apparently, things changed over the years. he was nine years older than her. was 23. >> he had a girlfriend at the time? >> right. there is an amazing story that he wases about to propose to this woman. >> right. >> and one of his friends bursts in and broke the mood, i guess you would say. >> right. >> then she went off and married somebody else. it came within a whisker, at least, proposing to somebody else. right. she was lawyer. would that have ban profession that her family appreciated her for? >> well, the family just said it was not. when charles francis adams wrote about it. he suggested that the family disapproved of her marrying a lawyer. she was also very young when she met them. i think they were being protktive of her as well. >> did she know she was going to be choose toking a life of politics? well, no one knew about the revolution coming.
i mean, it is one thing we have to keep in mind that all of this is happening period of time when there is no revolution. there was no ref lugs on the horizon. they think of themselves as british people. and sure, he was interested in politics the way young men were. he was, i think, running for office by this time. >> very, very local. >> yes. >> right. >> his trajectory was to great lawyer in massachusetts. that is what he saw. >> right. >> he was following that lawn. he probably would have been. well, it is important to note, because these two were married for 54 years. as we are hearing from our guest, they were great partners. this was, even if it was in the beginning not the love match, it grew to become one. we have an example one letter. this is called the "miss adorable letter" we'll show it to you next. thigh what is so appealing about the family's series is the intimacy that the letters reveal.
the earliest extent letter we have dates to october 17, '62. he call it the miss of adorable letter because that is how john opens the letter. it is john writing to abigail. he says "miss adorable" by the same tongue that the hero sat up with you last night, i hear bye orderer to you give him as many kiss and as many hours of your company after 9:00 after he shall please to demand. and charge them to my account. he continues, "i presume i have a good right to draw upon you for the kiss. of consequence the accounts between us is in favor of yours. "so very teasing afessing it a tone, and there is some wonderful moments in the
courtship correspondence. >> it is fun during this sorries to bring the founding fathers, people that we see, and these very dimensional poses come to life and have real human personalities. these people were clearly having fun and enjoyed one another. >> i think, this is one of the most appealing things about john and abby gill and some of the other adams, but particularly jn and abigail. they have a life that you can follow because of the document. you see them in good times and in bad. you see death in the family. you see triumph. it is, i was going to say it is like abby, but pit is not exactly. it is a wonderful story. he reason it is because we have so many documents. there is texture there that you don't have with the other founders. >> based on how you described her admonitions to john about remembering the ladies. brenda elliot on twitter wants to know, would you say abigail
adams was the mother of women's rights in the united states? >> i think one the things we know by reading abigail's let hers that is women were aware of their subordinate role in the 18th century. because we have abby gill's letters where she writes, we know that she was not exemplary. other women in the period of time, her good friend warned for for in tans, was totally agreeing with her, and totally a colleague, i think that one think of things we have learned in the women's movement in the late '20's, early 21st century that is we can trace the movement for women's rights back further and further in history and abigail happens to be an outstanding example because she left us letters that say these things. >> she was also eloquent. not everyone could write like
abigail. abigail was wonderful writer. >> first telephone call. it come comes from jan watch usn new york city. hi,ian, you are on. >> hi, hi, good evening. so while abigail was certainly one of the first great american female writers, she would be age knowledged she was poor mother, despite john quincy, since another son committed suicide, another son drank himself to death. >> thank you. was she a good mother? >> yes. she was very good mother. i think we live in a world in which when something goes wrong inside of a family, the mother gets the blame. first of all, the children are living through a revolution. second of all, their father was not a at home for 25 years. she was doing it all by herself. and she was coping in situation in which was extraordinary. and i think that applying 21st
century standards to mothering and even the psychology that has developed in the early 20th century doesn't fly for the 18th century. >> marry is up next in santa rosa, california. hi, mary. hi. thanks for taking my call. i am interested in finding out what the relationship between abigail and thomas jefferson was. did abigail and thomas jefferson correspond during john and thomas' year of not really speaking to each other? i have also heard that abigail was really, had an it mate relationship with him as far as correspondence went and wondering how true that is? >> they were, they were very good friends at one time. i think that the highest point of the relationship was when abigail was for awhile in
prance, england, thomas jefferson was diplomate abroad at that time. they were very close. they were very close. as a matter of fact shall, for awhile, while jefferson was in par is, she was in london. they bought goods from one another and kept accounts for one another. also, at one point, one of jeffer soson's younger daughter came from virginia to france but stopped in london on the way and abigail took care of her during that time. during the national period when particularly after the election of 1800, the relationship really fell apart and was over politics. i would say that during that time, abigail was very disappointed with jefferson. >> next up is matt in oshkosh, wisconsin. >> hi. thanks for taking my call.
considering what some of the intellectual and systemmistic influence abigail's writings were. how they influenced her. >> thank you. did she have influences on her writing? >> oh, yes. of course, she was great reader. this is the beginning point to write well. of course, to read good literature. she read the bible. she read books. i will let jim talk. when we do the research on her letters, one of the fing things, if she is quoting somebody or creating somebody, we always want to identify who it is. but sometimes she is not using quotation marks because educated people in the 18th century knew a lot of things automatically. i would say the things she quoted most often were things she referenced were shakespeare, the bible, alexander, pope, and the classic. >> this next call is from their hometown, quincy, massachusetts. you are on.
>> yes, hello. congratulationses on having this wonderful series on the first ladies. you know, i live in massachusetts. we are lucky to, you know, see and experience and breath the adams' life upclose every day. my comment was going to be about abigail's statement or sentiment about the ladies because i think that she pretty much knew. she put the late on the fact that women can say, women can shape and change destinies, not just of one's life but of nation and the world if they set their mind to it. it is very important because, you know, women are the family
factor in bringing up the children, so, especially, she did it at the brink of fear of the united states as we know it today, because, you know, she is instrument in the constitution and forming of this nation, so, in fact, quincy actually caused the blood face of the american region, so i think she may not be formerly recognized as, you know, the primary role, but i think, she had very, very important, an important role in shaping women's place in this country and in history. >> thank you. >> we have a comment and observation and question. that caller was from witnessy. we tack you next to the quincy home of the adams as we prepare to tell you of the revolutionary times in which the adams lived. let's watch.
>> the to riff abigail adams and the ref lugsary war is a story of sacrifice of commitment to country and abigail rose to the occasion for the first ten years of their married life, john and abigail lived in this home from 1764 to 1774. you is where they raised their four children. this was the birthplace also of their second child, john oncey adams, who went on to become the sixth president of the united states. it is also an important home because the primary link between she and john adds dams who was searching in philadelphia would be letter writing and it was from this house that he was provided a window to what was happening back here in the colony of massachusetts during the revolutionary war. abigail would report to john about the militia in boston during the battle of bunker hill on june 17th, 1775, she took her young son, john quincy, over to the hill down the road, the high point and she would watch the battle of
bunker hill with her son and report to john adams of the fires and the smoke rising from charlestown. she was literally the eyes of the revolution to jn adams and essentially the second continental congress in philadelphia. >> abigail's par parlor. we're in the hub of the household. this room could be considered the classroom for abigail, the school miss stress and her four children. during the war, one must remember, the schools were closed down, so the children did not benefit from the formal education shall instead, it was up to abigail to teach them the also sons. not only arithmetic and french, but also morality. literature and what was going on in the revolutionary war. she was their primary educator here in this home and this is the room were many of those lesson was have taken place. she reported to john adams during the revolution at one point, she became to take up the works of ancient hest and she was having john witnessy
read her at least two pages a day. i didn't know if anybody read the history. for a 7-year-old boy to accomplish this, he had good instructor in abigail adams. >> during the occupation of boston. there were many refugees leaving from boston out to the country. they needed a place to live. abigail adams wanted to open the home next door. johned a dm's birthplace for the refugees. abigail rented out the thousands a farmer named mr. hayden and his son and would provide assistance to abigail on the farm here. she reported to john in one of the letters that she met with some very ill treatment. she asked mr. hayden to share the house with the refugees but he refused. by the time abigail received the response from john adams, like many things, she had solved this problem herself and reported to john later. she had taken care of the problem and paid mr. hayden to leave the premise. therefore, providing the opportunity for her to house refugees fleeing from boston. >> there are troops that are
marching in her yard practicing their maneuvers in preparation for war. she reports to john that young john quincy is out behind the house marching proudly behind the militia. at one point, there were militia living in the upstairs attic ands a also the second floor. she welcomed these militia men to her home and supported the revolutionary war with her action. >> the adams' life and trajectory puts them in the biggest events of the founding days of our country. we have a timeline of some of the key times in the adams' life and events we learned unthink history book. you can see 1744-she was born and married john adams 20 years later. soon after this, the stamp act, then in 1707 the boston massacre. a will go on as you are watching that time line. i want to ask you about how endangered the adams' family were living in the midst of
this preparation for war and having being sympathizers against the existing government. >> well, the first decade of their marriage, abigail and john lived together. it was during this decade that the events happened that as the war escalated toward war. this was the kind of simultaneous parallel occurrence at the personal level and then the more global, political level. during this period of time, there was not danger. there was danger once lexington and conquered had happened. once there was fighting in the massachusetts bay area. >> yeah. there was danger. and more than, they did not know if there would be danger. they never knew where the next troop deployment was going to happen. she was ready at any minute to move away from the house, to move inland to take her
children and bring them to safety. >> how much during those critical years. how much time was she awilling loan when john adams was off working on the foundations of the government? >> oh, my goodness. some 1774 to 1784 they were apart most of the time. he came home a couple of time force a couple of months but during that time. she was alone on the farm by herself bringing up the children. >> and she was writing these letters explaining the situation. how concerned was he about his family back in massachusettss? >> i think he was very concerned. there is one sort of heart wrenching period where she is pregnant, and she is writing right in until the time she begins labor, and because of the time and distance, which is something that is so hard for us to understands now, with our instant communication, he is writing hoping she is going to have a daughter and everything will be fine. in the meantime, she -- the
infant is born dead. she had premonition this was going to happen. so while he is writing happily, joyfully, she, she is burying this child. so there is -- he knows she is capable of doing almost anything a woman or a man could do during that time. but i think, there is a certain helplessness on his part. he is so consumed by what he is doing there, but then, reflect and he will send letters. you know, kiss little tommy and johnny and, it is very, it is emotional. very emotional. >> when war break out, i read that she was so supportive of it. she would do things like help the effort by melting down housewares, plates and cups so they could be made into bullets. was this common? >> sure. people were doing that.
yes. i will pass on this. >> okay. >> let's take couple more calls as we learn about the revolutionary years of the adam's. next is a call from denise in rochester, michigan. hi, denise, you are on. >> hello, i would like to know if the mini sorries from hbo, john adams, was reflected in any way of how things really were in her life in the sense of family. i know they did not go too deep into that. also i would like to know, when you talk about the kids. was that the baby who died. was that correct about the man, the son drinking? >> all right. >> thank you. >> thank you very much. >> first the hbo men ny series which brought the adams to the forefront fo for a lot of contemporary americans. >> right. it was good history. there were part of it was drama also. you have to understand in order to make it appealing.
it was a little license was taken. generally it was pretty good history. >> on the children. there is a tweet to add to that carl's question. abigail raised fo e for 25 years alone while john adams was busy while a woman of steel. the caller asked about the five children. it did include the child who died. >> the child who died was the third child. born before charles. there was abigail, there was abigail, jr., then there was john quincy, then there was john quincy, and then there was third time who lived only a year. there is very little reference to this child. we know very little about it. then abigail was pregnant at the time of the death of susana and her third child, charles, was then born. at the end of her life, when her daughter-in-law lost a
child and the daughter-in-law was at the time in st. petersburg, abigail wrote to her. for the first time that i have seen in the correspondence, maybe you have seen it, she made a reference to having lost a baby daughter. it was a closed topic. >> the caller also wanted to know about the son who was alcoholic and died of the disease. >> charles. people did not know about alcoholism in those days. it was considered sinful. it was not considered a disease. charles is throughout the correspondence treated as a person who was sensitive from the earliest years, he was sensitive. he went to europe and joined his father and john witnessy in 1779 and he had to come back because he was home sick. thereafter, every ref witness that one sees about him. he was sweet child. a very pleasant child but also fragile and may have gotten
into some trouble when he was in harvard. the life was irregular. >> you flow the correspondence between abby gill and her sisters, for example, that they kept an eye on him. they said there was problem. it is never fully discussed as a young man. >> right. >> i that i one of the things that was difficult for abigail that her brother was an alcoholic. he left his family. >> right. >> this viewer on twitter says, abigailed a calm adams sound most like eleanor roosevelt. if she had been born at a later age, can you speculate? >> well, that is hard to say. it is really taking some, yes, she certainly would. she had all attributes of a very dynamic woman who is opinionated and would have had her own goals to pursue and would have been very, very influence. she was very influenceable the presidency. we know. >> well, in fact, along historians and there have been
four surveys of historians over the course of the past couple of kicked as. abigail comes in the number two or number three position as most influential. why is that? >> who would be number one? >> eleanor. >> eleanor. >> really? who would be two? >> well, she was three of the four times. >> okay. >> okay. >> why does she end up in the number two spot? >> i think one of the problems, there is a distance in time. people have other images. people know. people are still alive that knew eleanor roosevelt and she is modern. iths the same thing if you did a survey now jacqueline kennedy would probably rate much higher because people know and really liked her at that time. abigail, the only thing we have from abigail are the letters. she is still in the number two spot which is not bad. >> not bad. >> with the list of first ladies you have seen throughout the 200 years,
being the most influence based on the letters. >> well, i think, also, if you see her influence on her husband, i don't know that there were many, there have been many first ladies that have had that kind of influence. >> yeah. what is an example of an important policy that you see that she worked on him. >> , i don't know. i don't know of the particular policy. it is that he consults her all the time. she talks, she -- her letters at certain point are divided into two things. here is what is happening the children. this is what is happening on the farm. here are my thoughts about politics. so she shared all the time. i think by the time he got to the president, he was, he was not popular with his party, she was his major adviser. >> yeah. >> talking about letters. here is another in the video piece of a letter abigail to john focused on virginia.
>> remember the ladies letter is a letter that everyone knows and associates with abigail adams. that was what lesser known and what is fascinating about the letter is that the remember the ladies comment comes quite far down in the letter and the first section of her letter to john is questioning and voicing her concerns about virginia's role in the revolutionary war. she writes "what sort of defense virginia can make against our common enemy, whether it is so situated as to make an able defense are not the gent ry lords and the common people baffled? are they not like the uncivilized natives britain represents us to be?" she continues in probably one of the most pointed comments on
slavery. i am sometimes been ready to think that the passion for liberty cannot be equally strong in the breath of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow creatures of theirs. of think am certain that it is not founded upon that den rouse and christian principle of doing to others as we would that others should do on to us. >> how influence was this opinion about people on john adam's thinking? >> think, john adams had to be more practical. he is in congress. he is dealing with these people. he cannot alienate them. he could see. he was little outspoken. head to help hold this together. it is easy to be a critic when you are not there, and i think that throughout the first 60 years of the country, people had to tred softly in order to coop the union together. >> right. >> we'll fast forward. the country is formed. the washingtons are elected
president and are serving first in new york then philadelphia and john adams is vice president of the washingtons. how did he and abigail define their household? did she move to snork did she move to philadelphia? how did they arrange that? >> john was vice president for eight years. she moved to new york for one year, the first year, because capital of new york for the first year, and she loved it. she had beautiful house on the hudson overlooking the city of manhattan and overlooking new jersey shore. she loved it. and she was also happy because her daughter lived nearby. then they moved to philadelphia. and she spent the entire year ill. it was not a good climate for her. her health was always precarious.
so she decided after that year in philadelphia, they decided together that she would stay at home. there was not really a precedent for first lady and the first or the second first lady, the vice president's wife to be living with the men. it was by choice. martha did it. but abigail had the will be ty to choose to go home and she did for the next six years. >> on her illness with with, he of we learned last week that the city of philadelphia was decimated at the start of the second term by yellow fever. 12% of the population died. did she have illnesses related to that? >> no. >> it is hard to tell. she describes symptoms, but it is hard to put a name on the symptoms. i don't know. >> rheumatism. she did have rheumatism. but beyond that, the symptoms she describes are very hard to
diagnose. >> there was no role model for being the second lady at the time. james asked by twitter did the newspapers that time mention abigail? >> boy, i am not really sure about that. they certainly mentioned john from time to time, although -- was she a national figure that time? >> no. no. not at all. she was known because she had been the life of the minister to great britain. one of the problems that they had was that people thought that they were tainted by their time in europe. it is one of the interesting things about abigail. she grows up a minister's daughter and at some point she is at the court of st. james, so she is an extraordinarily sophisticated person by that time. much more so than martha
washington. >> right. >> martha washington was an american elite. >> abigail was international. >> right. >> what is the relationship between martha washington and abigail adams? >> it was wonderful. abigail loved martha. she met her when she was the wife of the vice president. whenever they had social events, they were very close and abigail wrote, whenever she wrote about martha, which was not that much, when she did write about nar, wait was the most glowing terms. >> just after she knew john was going to be elected, she wrote to martha washington asking her about how to be the first lady about etiquette and how she would carry on. >> martha wrote back and said -- you know inside yourself how to behave. >> we know that is a tradition that continues today for new
incoming first lady. we talk to the people who served before, understanded that enormity of this task. here is a call next. it is from ron in washington. hi, ron. >> yeah, good evening. thanks for the program. thanks for taking my call. i have read in one of the books, and i have read some of the earlier works by david and john adams, but i still think the most comprehensive biography, technically of john adams, but really of them both, was one done more than half dren tri ago by paige smith. that i really still stands out and i wanted to get your comments on that. >> i think no one writes about john adams today without consulting paige smith. he is, he is, he is the foundation for writing. and remarkable to me because the adams' papers had just
been opened to the public at the time when he started writing his book and yet they are thoroughly researched. >> that was the first thing i read in graduate school. that was my introduction. >> well, the caller was nice to mention the books. want to show some of them because we're hoping along the way that people will be intrigued to read more. here is one abby gill and john the portrait of a marriage and here is one more, will put on the screen here. my dearest friend, the letters of abby gill and john adams. this is one of your books here. are these letters approachable for the every day person? can you just dive in to get a sense of this person? >> yes. you may need a little historical conto exarea in stan a few of the things they are alluding to. they are timeless. they talk about problems that people have today. concerns that people have today. not the political context but
the intimacy of the letters. >> i would ad to that, first of all, the book is excellent because of the footnoting. do take people into it. but also abby gill's letters have been in print. she has been read since 1840 when her grandson first published an addition to of the letters which went through four edition in the 1840's. she was a bestseller through the 19th century. people knew her. she has been famous. >> i think, i won't be able to find the tweet as quickly as i need to now. someone did ask the question. did the adams' ever think about their letters being published? and do you have any sense of that? >> as early as 1776, john is telling her to put letters out to keep them, and think at a certain point, there is almost a consciousness in some of the particular his letters. they know at a certain point.
i don't know when they cross that threshold that they are important. and at that point, this is one of the reason that's the family saved the letters. early on, it is emotion with adorable letter and things like that. after awhile, their letters extend from 1762 to 1801 almost 40 years the most important 40 years in american history. >> and they understood they were players in it and writing for thages. that is right. i believe so. this is a tweet from big john 1981 who said last week you mentioned that marijuana that did not like john adams. how did this affect the relationship between nar and abigail? so i don't know that is true. i think what we said was that abby gill and nar's friendship helps facilitate the relationship between washington and adams when they were trying to understands what a president and vice president might do. can you see any evidence to
that? >> i don't know. i think they got along pretty well all the time. john adams was extraordinarily supportive of washington and was personally injured when some of the press turned on washington and could not believe it. this is one of the things, nar and george were a hard act to follow. they knew they would be difficult. >> we'll move into the figures of the one-term presidency. before that video, it is a time you called it a plen did splendid misery being in the white house. explain what that phrase when? >> oh, it is meant that it was splendid in that they were at the pinnacle of his political career, and her career. i mean, they had risen to the top. was nothing but trouble. agonizing trouble from the
very beginning. at first, john was enthusiastic about becoming president. abigail said i will stay here in quincy because i got things to do and she was taking care of jn's mother. she said i won't be there until october. he said that is fine. you don't have to come until october. then once he was in the presidency, he discovered it was the loanest place in the word. he started wright letters. drop everything that you are doing, come here, i need you, immediately. she did. i think one of the interesting thinks one of the reasons she was hesitant about it is she said i like to be outspoken. i like to speak my piece. she knew in that context she could not. when she was in quincy, she could. she was in quincy, that time, a house they built together called peace field. let's take a look at. you in 1787, abigail realized they had outgrown the little college at the foot of the
hill. she began to knee herb gate through her cousin to purchase the house we're stand in front of now. john adams enjoyed a lot of peace and tranquility at this home as did abigail. she christened his home peace field. there were two room on the first floor, two rooms on the second, three smaller bedrooms on the third floor and a small kitchen. there were seven and a half rooms to this home. this was john and abby gill's home base. before becoming first lady. abigail would spend nine years in the house. the first year she was setting up the house after just returning from europe. she had remembered this house as one of the grand houses in quincy but hir perception of grand had changed since living in europe. she became though right away making plans to enlarge the house and wanted to improve on the size and the height of the ceilings and the size of the space. she was in fact write to her daughter warning her not to
wear any of the large feathered hats because the ceilings were too low. she began working with an architect doubling the size adding a long hall and a long entertainment room where she would receive her guest. >> with sensitivity to the architecture on the outside and the flow of the home, she had the builder dig down so that they colonel the floors and get the high ceilings she desired without disrupt the architecture on the outside of the house. you stepped down two steps and you are in a whole different world. >> a typical day for abigail would be to rise at 5:00 a.m. she had many chores to do. much of her time here was spent tending the farm, take care of the orchard, and taking care of the house. she also loved the early morning hours to spend by herself preparing herself for the day, but most importantly, having a chance to indulge in
one of the novels. although that is home. this is the home of the family and abigail instead of having servants doing all the work for her even as the first lady she would be contribute though kitchen and the running of the household. this is something she continued throughout her life no matter what the position was. she was involved. i was an active and lively holdhouse. she spent a great deal of her time writing because their misfortune and being apart was our fortune and in one letter when he is asking her to come to philadelphia abigail would write of the room she was in and the window and the view she saw. the beauty at which i now write tempts me to forget the past. an indication while abigail was back her at peacefield she was on a new beginning as the first lady of the united states as the wife of the president and also still a mother. she would describe life here at peacefield so romantically
that john adams would reply in one of the letter, oh my sweet little farm, what i would do to enjoy thee without interruption. >> and the four years the adams' presidency how much time did she spend there? >> she became ill in 1798 and went home and had to stay there for an extend time. john actually followed her and he stayed there for too long according to his cabinet members who finally urged him to come back to philadelphia which was then the capital. she tried to that i have. again her healt caused her to bt home. she was quite ill for close to year. and possibly close to death during that time. >> well, how deserve as chief executive on the farm? >> well, this also happened during the vice presidenty when congress was in meeting,
the vice president would go back to where he lived and i think that the president, when especially during the summer, they would usually leave in the spring and come back in the fall. i was like a seasonal thing although did he overdiet little bit during this time. it was not unusual for the president to be away at that time. >> these were very trying years for a brand-new nation. can you give us a sense of some of the history of money period of what was happening during the adams' administration the key policy issues and how it was faring on the world stage of this new country?
i think that is the thing he should be most recognized for. >> he was one president who kept us out of four. -- war. we were ready to go to war and he prevented it. >> in what way? >> politicians at the time -- like politicians forever -- were enjoying the exercise of making war. they were very close to war.
they're outraged by the piracy that was going on. american diplomats were being badly treated. he kept us out of war. >> we have a few key dates of historic four years of 1797-18 01. for those of you who do not follow american history, march was the timeframe. you can see things such as washington, and ec becomes the capital in 1800. 1801 marshall was appointed chief justice. talk about the alien and sedition acts. >> that was a reaction to some
of the international problems at the time. there was a believe on the part of some people that we were about to be overrun by french revolutionaries and that they were influencing people in america. there are rumors that the city would be burned. it was terrorism that they were anticipating. >> americans were afraid of the french at that point? >> of some of the french. for example, the opposition party for the democratic republican party was very enthusiastic about the french. >> jefferson in particular? >> jefferson in particular. also, some of the press was very critical of the administration. one of the things that they muzzled the press on -- abigail
supported john. he signed the legislation. that abigail, she is more conservative than john. >> the upshot of this for people who would be breaking the law if you were thinking of breaking the alien and sedition act, what would happen? >> jail. >> h smith said that the press wrote that the press made things that. they do not have standards. because not only that they were supporting the french, but they made up stories. adams was worried about this.
he believed that the states should be passing sedition laws and not the national government. it was the states rights. that is part of what separated them. at that time, people did not have the same horror about suppressing the press that we have today ear. >> it was in the heat of the moment. >> right. >> we have our next caller. caller: hi there. i was wondering if there were any presidents and first couples that most resemble an amalgamation of the adams? is there a better relationship?
or is that the relationship standard? i hope you will take that question. >> we do not have the insight into anyone else's life. love letters to lady bird was recently published. but there is nothing like a abigail and john exchange. >> maybe there is a bias? [laughter] >> i think when it was during a time when there were so many players on many stages, that is the thing that sets them apart. >> here is a question about peacefield. " presidents -- "many president
used their homes as a neutral space for meetings. did john and don't host any dignitaries at peacefield -- and abigail host any dignitaries at peacefield?" from west point came. they had a band. they served in march. they had officers. john adams gave a talk to the troops. occasionally people would come by. they did not interchange in the sense of politically entertaining. it was family for the most part. >> mount vernon and the washington seem to be constantly welcoming people into their house. >> there was a lot of traffic. people wanted to be close to the president. i think social standards were different than.
-- now. if someone came to your door, they would not turn you away. >> did she continue to write letters at the time they were separated? >> she did. another important point is that when she is with john, it is not that she isn't writing letters. she's writing letters to other apel. two of her children are in europe on a diplomatic mission. lots of letters back and forth. john quincy adams to their par ents. she also writes wonderful letters to her sister. >> we have another example of a letter to john adams from abigail. let's watch. >> it served to show how little rounded in nature the quality
is. making one evening and requested to speak to me. his errand was to inform me that as james went to school thomas and would -- pray, has he behaved? let the master turn him out of school. there was no complaint on that kind, but they did not choose to go to school with the black boy. and why not? she continues on saying, they allow him to play and they still go. she closes this section saying, the boy is a free man as much as any of the young men. is he to be denied instruction? how qualified doesn't need to
be to procure a livelihood? todoes he need to be procure a livelihood? >> she is recounting an experience in her life and hoping to influence his thinking. how concerned was he with rights and equality set this point and in this presidency? >> i think this is james she's talking about. james was a special person to abigail. when abigail gose to philgoes to philadelphia, john says not to bring james. he did not want james in philadelphia as his servant. not clear why, but there was a sense of corruption. there were fewer blacks in massachusetts.
there is a larger free black -- he says, do not have him come. he writes a second letter. as is revealing. -- this is revealing. i think she taught him to read. i do not know if she was instructing john adams so much on this. she was showing her love and affection for james as an individual regardless of his race. >> here is a quote that one of our viewers sent in. it looks like she is quoting a letter to john. "we live, my dear soul, in an age of trial. what will the consequences be? i know not." >> wonderful quote.
tells us they had no idea that there would be a war. they suspected they would be -- there would be a war. he did not know it would separate the colonies. all of the things that we take for granted. we have to view it from their point of view. we do not know what is going to happen. >> we have said at the outset that she was criticized by the press to sometimes use the phrase mrs. president. what is the contenxt of that? >> the context of the press. they attacked the woman. the british press is the same.
she was accustomed to not have a good relationships with the press. it speaks to the tone of newspaper journalism of the time. >> did she complain to family members about this? was she hurt? >> i think she took it as part of politics. she was much more defensive of her husband. abigail didn't have great ambition for herself, that she did have great impression for john and her voicboys. she was very defensive of them. this is one of the reasons the relationship with jefferson is a difficult. she had loved thomas jefferson as a friend and jefferson turned on her husband. >> the support of her husband
and writing to him. >> she was with him all of the time. when he needed her, she was there. >> was their need for her to respond to the press? >> not that i could think of. her avenue of responding to the press was, she was in favor of the sedition law. she likes the idea of curtailing the press. >> let's take our next call. caller: good program. nursing for taking my call. i'm a member of the press -- thank you for taking my call. i'm a member of the press. a few callers insinuated abigail was not a good mother because of the situation with charlie and john quincy. i believe john quincy was a leading abolitionist.
can we give abigail a bouquet of roses that maybe she might have influenced john quincy in terms of the color of a man's skin should not determine how he is placed in six id? >-- in society? >> we will stop you right there. let's talk about her influence. >> she did not see him again until he was 17 or 18. he became a man under the tutelage of his father. she was very influential during those years. k at this instance to
blame the mother every time something goes wrong. circumstances happen. there is possibly a genetic i predisposition to alcohol in that family. it is certainly in the culture. there was a sensitivity to alcohol. but a revolution happened when her children grew up. they grew up during wartime. that can be very damaging to a childs psyche. they are 1800 and was very difficult. a campaign for reelection against a big rival. thomas jefferson lost that. they also lost their son that year. about all of those for little bit. >> the decision to run for the office again, did abigail
support that? >> we do not have much in a decision for the previous election. the agonized over it. it went back and forth. there are letters of should i or shouldn't i? he was thinking by this time, the political parties were so strong, you do not want the other party to win. he wanted to follow through on what he was doing. there were about happenings around or to the adams family during that time. but he had one of his great successes. the convention with the french that ended the undeclared war. >> right.
i would emphasize that the political parties -- many of the people around them did not anticipate political parties. they thought they had a constitution and government. the guy everyone would be agreeing on an harmonious. it did not work out that way. -- they thought everyone would agree and be harmonious. it did not work out that way. >> we have this graphic we have of the white house in the 1800s. it looks pretty miserable. what was life like in the mansion for the adams? >> it was pretty miserable. they do not have heat. they had to gather wood in that area.
the fires in the fireplaces was not finished when they moved in. abigail describes georgetown as a swamp. the city was not yet built. they moved in before there was a proper white house. it affected the way that she interchanged and her entire role as first lady. she was limited by what she could do in that draftee, cold, incomplete house. there was one stairway to go to the second floor. >> and most of them shared misery by the members of congress arriving? >> plus, it was seasonal. congress came and went. there were not a lot of people who lived year-round at that time. >> we have this graphic.
did that really happen? >> i do not know. >> i suspect so. >> it would have been a good place to dry laundry. it was dark and cold. >> we talked about charles dieting. any more to say on how that affected her? -- we talked about charles dyinh. -- dying. any more to say on how that affected her? >> terrible heartbreak. he said that it was the greatest grief of his life. >> next color. you're on the air. -- next caller. you are on air. caller: thank you for putting on the series.
my sense is that john was raised with more bent, but was more utilitarian as an older man. what about abigail? >> thank you for that question. abigail was a very religious woman. she was so religious that in times of turbulence when things went wrong, she thought it was a punishment. there was an epidemic during the war years when john was away. people weren't dying. servants -- people were dying. her servants were sick. she believed that life was providential. her letters continually reference the bible. i think when things got bad in her life, she became more religious and more conservative.
i agree with you that she was probably more conservative in her religion than john adams. >> we have about 10 minutes left abigailiscussion on jo adams. when john adams realized he lost the presidency, how did he take it? how did abigail take it? >> by the time the electoral vote was counted, i think they knew he was not going to be reelected. i think they were disappointed. one of the things john said throughout his public life was that he was always going to retire. he would go back to the farm and retire. he loved the farm. in that sense, it was not so bad. i think it was the ideas that some people refer to their
revolution of 1800s. it was a dramatic change. he did not attend the inauguration. some people thought he was being spiteful. those of us who defend adams say he had to catch an early stage to get back. i do not know. maybe somewhere in between. part of it was he felt a man betrayed and defeated him. that was the hardest thing. >> the couple spent so many years apart. they now have this opportunity to live together. how long did they live together? >> abigail lived until 1818. they lived together for 18 years. >> what were those years like for them? >> they were idyllic in some ways and very difficult in other ways. it was not an easy retirement. they were very happy to be together. abigail refused to go to her
daughter because she could not leave john. during that time, her daughter had a vasectomy without anesthesia. >> that is hard to think of. >> she ultimately died two years later. they were very close. it was a time of satisfaction and peace and also very great disruptions in their life. they had grandchildren and children. there was a lot of drama going on. they had to bail them out or not build them out. >> they had some financial
difficulties for a while. there was a bank failure in england that their son had invested in. >> this is beginning to sound like downtown abbey. so much drama. >> the daughter had a terrible husband. they very early on realized that. they were constantly worried about her. not just physically, but everything. >> from the perspective of your life' work and their letters, they stopped writing at some point? >> they stop writing letters to each other, but she continued writing letters to other people. >> gives him the most? -- to whom the most? >> john adams is away on diplomatic assignments. be secretary ofer state. abigail has a sister who lives in new hampshire higher uat tha.
her older sister lives nearby. two children and friends. n and friends.childre >> there is a lovely between her and the young girl. >> what was the relationship he trained the two adams women -- between the two adams women> -- women? >> i think she was rather shocked by the culture in new england after having a john upbringing. >> she went to the old house and said it was like going on noah's ark. >> let's have our closing video.
this is where the adams spent their final years, peacefield. >> abigail enjoyed 17 years of retirement here at peacefield with her husband, john adams. the old couple could dote on their children and grandchildren and enjoy the tranquility. the room is a reflection of the warmth that this house provided them. it was inviting, sunny, and bright. they enjoyed many hours in this room writing to friends or family and enjoying the time together. on october 27, 1818, abigail passed away from typhoid fever. she was 74 years old. that adams had lost his dearest friend. building way that you could find comfort was in the pen. he would pen a letter to thomas jefferson, letting jefferson know he lost his dear friend. he would say to his family, if only i could lie down beside her
and die as well. >> can you talk about john adams's life in the years after abigail died? >> john was surrounded by family. he was not isolated. he had always had hostess or andiecer and the nic children and grandchildren came. there was always traffic. there was a lot going on. he could not write his own letters. he had someone write for him. he carried on this incredible correspondence with jefferson. >> culminating as our viewers
know, these great bitter enemies finally came to peace and died together on an anniversary of the declaration, july 4. quite an amazing piece of american history. here is a question about whether or not the bloodline is still living. is there an addams family somewhere? >> why don't you respond to that. >> there are several that the massachusetts historical society -- of the adams memorial association. i have more than 100 members here y. we frequently get questions from people thinking and believing that they are related or a descendent of john and abigail. some of them might be